A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Now, the Petraeus Story Has a Lebanese Angle

Having been tied up attending MEI's Annual Conference I'm a little behind on blogging about the critical issues of the day. Up until now I had nothing to say about the whole General Petraeus sex scandal since it seemed a tabloid story, and this blog only deals in sleazy sex scandals when they have a clear Middle Eastern angle; besides I felt that The Onion's reporting covered the essentials: "Nation Horrified To Learn About War In Afghanistan While Reading Up On Petraeus Sex Scandal, which notes the nation's scandal readers were shocked to discover we've been at war in Afghanistan for 11 years. Other than that it just seemed like a tragic story of a good man whose flaws brought him low.

Of course the conspiracy theorists started early, as seems only natural when you have the head of the CIA, the NATO Commander in Afghanistan, a couple of femmes fatales, some curious behavior by an FBI agent, etc. But as a conspiracy theory it was missing something, a je ne sais quois that would tie it all together.

Then over the last couple of days we've learned that in fact "Tampa socialite" (is "socialite" a recognized job description? How do I apply?) Jill Kelley was born Gilberte Khawam, of a Lebanese Maronite family from the town of Jounieh.

The missing puzzle piece! Every conspiracy theory should have a Lebanese connection! Juan Cole considers the subject fairly seriously, so I guess I don't need to. Since  in 2010 when the Miss USA candidate in the Miss Universe contest was a Michigan Arab-American of part Shi‘ite background there were crazed allegations she was some kind of Hizbullah mole, infiltrating our beauty contests (despite her posing in bikinis rather than niqab), the nutcases should be able to spin this into something. The Maronite angle doesn't fit real well (unless they're Aounists, which could give us a Hizbullah connection ...)

I am, of course, just kidding. I have no idea from the muddled leaks so far if Mrs. Kelley or General Allen have done anything even remotely improper, and my target here is not those possibly innocent individuals caught in this net, but the conspiratorial mindset.


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